Fusing quantum physics and urban legend, Feed the Herd’s Doppelganger uses a technologically sophisticated space—complete with interactive video and sound effects triggered by the actors’ manipulation of the set—in a trippy exploration of how the heart and mind deal with loss.
Reviewed by Ilena George
“What if there are two types of reality?” muses George (Jermaine Chambers) during an acid-fueled moment of clarity, “What if there is something other than linear logic?”
Doppelganger’s non-linear narrative poses this and other metaphysical questions by looking at two characters’ fragile mental states as they cope with grief following a traumatic death. George, originally an elevator-fearing corporate drone, becomes a frenzied risk-taker after witnessing his friend and co-worker Frank (Matt Hanley) fall out a window 40 stories up. Marcia (Heather Carmichael), Frank’s co-worker and erstwhile lover, hasn’t gotten a good night’s sleep since witnessing what remained of Frank after he hit the pavement. But Frank won't stay dead: both George and Marcia are haunted by various versions of Frank—from flashbacks to the day of Frank’s death, to Frank’s ghost, to his flesh-and-blood doppelganger. Potentially, Frank’s untimely demise sparked from an accidental meeting with his double, his doppelganger, while on line at a coffee shop.
Overseeing George and Marcia’s mental health, embodying corporate culture’s lack of soul and providing an overview of the double-slit experiment and other tenets of quantum physics is the office’s psychiatrist and motivational counselor, known only as The Doctor. Metha Brown’s eerie delivery and apparent omniscience, coupled with the set’s anxiety-provoking, quick-moving video projections of the characters stressing out, 40 stories worth of skyscraper rushing by and even relatively normal street scenes infuse ordinary objects and events—tables, papers, sleeping, speaking—with a sense of creepy malaise and anxiety.
The play consists of fragments—fragmented scenes, fragments of scenery, small personal objects suspended from the ceiling—that build on each other to depict the troubled mental landscape of these two characters as they try to sort out what exactly happened that day and what the aftershocks have been. Frank’s death consumes George and Marcia; they basically exist as characters only because of it and there’s something surgically clean about this obsession. Artistic attempts to parallel scientific principles with humanity and the human experience often don’t hold water. Just try reading Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. That is, saying something has a dual nature is not automatically the equivalent of a photon’s particle and wave-like characteristics. But Doppelganger allows the science some room to breathe, allowing the audience to draw their own conclusions as to what exactly is going on. But while the science is evocative, Doppelganger’s visual representation of George and Marcia’s mental states is more striking.
But all these fragments put together create a portrait that still lacks a piece or two as almost nothing is fully explained or known for certain beyond the fact of Frank’s death (which may not even deserve to be called a fact). While the beginning and end neatly mirror each other, the story calls out for a few more pieces to make it complete. Perhaps a little too much is left up to the audience to fill in but if you enjoy a provocative challenge on the nature of reality in a uniquely equipped space, don’t be afraid to sharpen your mental pencils and color in the blanks for yourself.
By Simon Heath
Directed by Emanuel Bocchieri
3LD Art and Technology Center (80 Greenwich Street)
June 23 - July 21, Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm
Tickets: $25, Theatermania (212) 352-3101 or www.feedtheherd.org
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